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In this Morning Brief, we open with the news that UK institutions win £15 million government bid to develop software for the world’s biggest radio telescope, Finland is appointing experts to create a long-term R&I investment plan, OPEC tells the European Union that it’s not possible to replace Russian oil supply loss, INESC-ID newest spin-off on Artificial Intelligence, JRC report on Science for Policy in Portugal, and more!  

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

UK institutions win £15 million government bid to develop software for world’s largest radio telescope

Six UK-based universities and research centres have been selected to deliver the UK’s software contribution to the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).

The software system will play a critical role in the observatory, guiding telescopes where to look and when, diagnosing issues and translating telescope signal into useable data for researchers. The UK has already developed software for the telescopes during the design phase and is now set to lead as the telescopes are constructed.

After 30 years in the making, and with 14 countries involved, the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope began in South Africa and Australia last year. Once complete, likely by the end of the decade, the two-telescope system will enable scientists to study objects that give off radio waves far away in space, producing enormous amounts of data on the universe, and help explore the evolution of the early universe.

Read more here.


Finland appoints experts to create long-term R&I investment plan

The government working group will draw up a plan for research, development and innovation funding beyond the current budget as the country eyes spending 4% of its GDP on R&D&I by 2030. 

It will build on the work of a previous working group which committed to the target of increasing R&D expenditure to 4% of GDP by 2030, proposing to pass a government act to ensure this. 

The working group, whose term ends on 31 March 2023, is made up by representatives of all of Finland’s elected parliamentary parties.

Read more here.


OPEC tells EU it’s not possible to replace potential Russian oil supply loss

According to EURACTIV, “OPEC told the European Union on Monday that current and future sanctions on Russia could create one of the worst ever oil supply shocks and it would be impossible to replace those volumes, and signalled it would not pump more. European Union officials held talks in Vienna with representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries amid calls for the group to increase output and as the EU considers potential sanctions on Russian oil. “We could potentially see the loss of more than 7 million barrels per day (bpd) of Russian oil and other liquids exports, resulting from current and future sanctions or other voluntary actions,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said, according to a copy of his speech seen by Reuters. “Considering the current demand outlook, it would be nearly impossible to replace a loss in volumes of this magnitude.” The European Union reiterated its call in the meeting for oil-producing countries to look at whether they can increase deliveries to help cool soaring oil prices, a European Commission official told Reuters. EU representatives also pointed out that OPEC has a responsibility to ensure balanced oil markets, the official said. OPEC has resisted calls by the United States and the International Energy Agency to pump more crude to cool prices, which reached a 14-year peak last month after Washington and Brussels imposed sanctions on Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the meeting with OPEC, the EU said OPEC could provide more production from its spare capacity, according to an OPEC document seen by Reuters. Still, Barkindo said the current highly volatile market was a result of “non-fundamental factors” outside OPEC’s control, in a signal the group would not pump more.”.


NeuralShift: Spinning-off Artificial Intelligence

Founded in 2021 out of questions asked and ideas raised during Miguel Freire‘s and Alexandre Borges‘ masters theses (both researched at INESC-ID and Instituto Superior Técnico), NeuralShift is a new company that develops last-gen artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to build products tailored to companies’ specific automation needs.

From its very start, NeuralShift’s vision has been to integrate computer vision technologies, natural language processing, and sequential decision-making models to bring intelligence to the automation of processes that involve complex tasks (e.g., package sorting, damage identification, and document processing). On the multivariate uses of AI, Arlindo Oliveira — a Distinguished Professor at Técnico (Oliveira supervised both Freire’s and Borges’ masters theses), President of INESC and one of the Advisors of NeuralShift — explains, “the application of advanced AI techniques, in computer vision and natural language understanding, has the potential to improve efficiency and customer service, reduce costs and provide data and analytical tools that can be used to redesign processes and services. Last-generation AI techniques will make it possible to offload to machines and algorithms repetitive tasks that are now consuming a significant fraction of available human resources, which can be redirected to higher value-added tasks.“

NeuralShift is one of several spin-offs that have been initiated at INESC-ID by researchers and ex-students over recent years. To have a look at some of these other companies please check out their spin-offs webpage.


INESC TEC carried out scientific monitoring of the seismic-volcanic activity on the Azores

INESC TEC travelled to the island of São Jorge (Azores), to join the scientific community in monitoring the current seismic-volcanic activity. During the visit, the researchers sought information that could increase confidence in potential scenarios and provide data to the local authorities in charge of risk management and civil protection. The main parameters being monitored are radon gas concentration and gamma radiation on the island.

“Radon is a noble radioactive gas naturally present on Earth. Being a gas, radon can be released from the Earth’s surface into the air and join other gases like carbon dioxide. Since it is a noble gas, e radon does not interact with other elements, which makes it an ideal tracer of other gases. Moreover, radon is radioactive, making it possible to measure it effectively via nuclear techniques, even in small quantities, thus allowing the monitoring of the gaseous component from the radioactive decay. The association of radon with seismic phenomena is controversial and still very poorly understood, but in volcanic environments the capabilities of radon as a tracer of fluids have been successfully used”, explained Susana Barbosa, INESC TEC researcher.

Unexpected seismic activity on the island of São Jorge began on March 19. Until now, more than 25.000 earthquakes have been recorded, of which close to 200 have been experienced by the population. The effects of the increase in seismicity on São Jorge are still unknown, and several scenarios are being explored: from the disappearance of seismicity without major consequences, to an earthquake of greater magnitude – and, consequently, greater danger – or even a magmatic intrusion and potential volcanic eruption.

Find out more here.


Science for Policy in Portugal

Don’t miss this discussion paper, developed to support the workshop ‘Science for policymaking in Portugal’, organized by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) held in November 2021.

In a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, there is a growing need for evidence-informed policy-making. Drawing on a mixed-method approach, they carried out an assessment of the science for policy system in Portugal, with a focus on five selected fields (Defense, Economy, Employment, Environment, and Health). While there is a diverse set of organizational mechanisms for scientific advice in Portugal, it was found that there is not a single science for policy ecosystem. Policymaking bodies are not fully aware of the relevance of scientific advice, and there is a lack of formalization of the procedures followed.

The present statute of University career discourages the practice of scientific advice. This research enabled the identification of five key, inter-related challenges: enhancing the recognition of the advantages of scientific advice among policy-makers; promoting an increased dialogue between science and policy-making; going beyond personal trust to foster institutional trust; stimulating academic engagement in policy-making; and increasing transparency. Action is needed to improve the governance of science for policy in Portugal, involving multiple stakeholders.

Make sure to read the publication here.


EU strengthens climate and energy cooperation with Egypt in view of COP27

The EU and Egypt agreed to reinforce their cooperation on energy and climate matters following wide-ranging consultations between Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and members of the Egyptian government in Cairo on 10 April.

In a joint statement, Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and President-designate of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC), Sameh Shoukry, said they will spare no efforts to deliver ambitious outcomes at COP27, and that the implementation of the pledges and announcements made at COP26 in Glasgow last year will be the priority. They also discussed prospects for enhanced bilateral and regional cooperation frameworks between Egypt and the European Union on issues fundamental to accelerate the transition to sustainable and resilient, net-zero emissions economies, including the potential for supporting further renewable energy generation, green hydrogen, climate change adaptation and sustainable and integrated management of water and other resources in line with Egypt’s 2030 Strategy and Climate Change Strategy 2050, as well as the European Green Deal.

Both sides agreed to reinforce cooperation on liquefied natural gas and green hydrogen supplies and to develop a Mediterranean Green Hydrogen Partnership encompassing hydrogen trade between Europe, Africa and the Gulf.

Joint Statement EU-Egypt.

EU Neighbourhood-South.


EuroScience Open Forum 2022

The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) created by EuroScience in 2004, is the largest biennial interdisciplinary meeting on science and innovation in Europe, for and with society. Each conference aims to deliver stimulating content and lively debate around the latest advancements and discoveries in the sciences, humanities and social sciences.

ESOF brings together over 4,500 leading thinkers, innovators, policy makers, journalists and educators from more than 90 countries, to discuss current and future breakthroughs in contemporary science.

ESOF is one of the best opportunities for everyone from leading scientists, early careers researchers, business people, policy makers, science and technology communicators to the general public to come together to find out more about how science is helping us advance today.

The 10th edition of ESOF in 2022 will attract thousands of delegates to Leiden (Netherlands), the host city of ESOF2022 and the European City of Science 2022, during the week of the conference. Alongside with the Forum, the Science in the City Festival will be held between January and December 2022 in Leiden.

Click here to find out more and to register.


European Commission and European Patent Office (EPO) co-organize annual conference of PATLIB centres

Participate in the open part of the annual conference of the more than 300 patent library (PATLIB) centres across Europe, which is jointly organised by the European Commission (EC) and the European Patent Office (EPO). To focus on the European policy context, they have joined forces for the virtual event on 12 May 2022. It is open to all professionals outside the network.

Understanding the patent landscape is key for R&I stakeholders who wish to valorise their research results. Patents are crucial for researchers and innovators to exploit their results, reap the economic benefits of their work and share it with society – as is the case for other Intellectual Property Rights. Stakeholders can seek support with patent information, searching and strategy by interacting with more than 300 patent library (PATLIB) centres across Europe.

The highlight sessions of this year’s conference include:

  • Find out how the EPO and the EC partner on the topic of knowledge valorisation in Europe and seek to improve collaboration on the European, national and regional levels. The panel discussion ‘Shaping European knowledge valorisation’ focusses on the European Research Area policy agenda. The session aims to show the latest developments in the domain of knowledge valorisation. It will explore a common set of values and principles for knowledge valorisation, and their application in different research and innovation ecosystems.
  • Gain an understanding of how the introduction of the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will facilitate access to patent protection and provide better value.
  • Find out how innovators and innovating SMEs can access EIC and other EC financial support programmes and hear about success stories.
  • The session on best practices for intellectual asset management will give an insight into best practice cases in relation to intellectual asset management. This session will showcase concrete regional and institutional examples, including on how to improve access, sharing and use of intellectual assets.

Find out more here


UK to finalise world’s first subsidy for clean hydrogen production by end of the year

The UK says it will finalise a plan to subsidise the production of low-carbon hydrogen by the end of this year, with the first support contracts for projects scheduled in 2023.

Despite a worldwide push for clean hydrogen, no country has yet put in place a subsidy scheme that would allow green or blue H2 to compete on price with cheaper but highly polluting grey hydrogen made from unabated natural gas.

The government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) plan — being billed as a “variable premium price support model” — would offer a subsidy representing “the difference between a ‘strike price’ reflecting the cost of producing hydrogen and a ‘reference price’ reflecting the market value of hydrogen”.

The deal would include a “contractual mechanism to incentivise the producer to increase the sales price and thereby reduce the subsidy” and would provide “volume support via a sliding scale in which the strike price (and therefore subsidy) is higher on a per-unit basis if hydrogen offtake falls”.

Read more here.

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